Second-half woes put an end to Dragons’ season

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INDIANAPOLIS — It turned quickly and it was a turn for the worse.

Second-half turnovers and a hot-shooting opponent were not a good mix for the New Palestine Dragons in Saturday’s Class 4A Decatur Central girls basketball regional semifinal against No. 11 Brownsburg.

Down just one at the half, the Dragons had 11 turnovers in the final two quarters, four came in the first two minutes of the third period, and found themselves in a hole too deep to climb out.

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The Bulldogs had a double-digit lead by the end of the third and went on to defeat the Dragons, 77-52, putting an end to the Sectional 9 champion’s season.

“They went on a little run, got up by quite a bit and I think we got a little down on ourselves and couldn’t get the momentum back. They were making everything in the second half,” New Palestine senior Michaela Jones said.

“Usually that second half is our half, but after those big plays (by Brownsburg) that kind of put us down,” Dragon senior Jordan Reid said. “I don’t think we ever quit, which I’m super proud of everyone for that. After those big buckets in the second half, that put us in a hole.”

Brownsburg hit 17 of 31 shots (54.8 percent) in the second half, including 6 of 12 (50 percent) from 3-point range. It scored 53 points in the final two periods, 27 came in the third quarter.

“We had really good third quarters in our sectional games and we kind of felt like if we had a good third quarter we could make something happen,” New Palestine head coach Sarah Gizzi said. “They had the third quarter that we were hoping to have.

“We gave up some buckets early and it took the wind out of our sail and then we had a couple turnovers. The whole thing is a bad combination.”

The first half was pretty even. Ally Becki was in charge of the Bulldogs and Reid was leading the Dragons.

Becki had 13 at the half, while Reid had 12. Becki finished with a game-high 33 points. Reid led the Dragons with 24.

The New Palestine senior also had nine rebounds.

Brownsburg led by five in the first half, but the Dragons closed late in the second period. Trailing 18-13, Reid scored on a conventional three-point play to cut it to 18-16. A bucket on a Reid drive made it 20-18 and when Reid hit from 3-point range the Dragons had a 21-20 lead with 1:10 remaining in the half.

It was back and forth the remainder of the half. New Palestine frosh Isabella Gizzi hit a pair of free throws with 14.8 seconds to go to give the Dragons a 23-22 advantage. It would be their final lead of the game.

Brownsburg’s Allison Bosse scored with .2 seconds left in the half to put her team up 24-23.

Following Reid, Isabella Gizzi scored 10 points. Michaela Jones had eight and Addi Jones scored six points, to go with nine boards. Grace Marshall and Faith Hensel each scored two points.

“It’s been the most fun season,” Michaela Jones said. “We had such a close team and that really helped us play hard and have success at the end of the season and (sectional).”

Following Becki, Brownsburg got a big spark off the bench from freshman Kailyn Terrell, who scored 14 points, including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc. Bosse scored 13.

Brownsburg (21-9) lost in the regional championship game later Saturday evening to No. 8 Lawrence North.

The Dragons finished the year 18-8 and with a sectional championship. It was quite an accomplishment considering eight players graduated from the 2019 team that finished 21-3, before being upset by Mt. Vernon in the sectional title game.

“We just couldn’t get it done tonight, but that’s alright. I’m super satisfied and super proud of our season and what all these girls have done this year,” Reid said. “We believed in ourselves and beat the odds of what people thought. We were confident in what we knew and how we played.”

New Palestine turned the tables in 2020, knocking off the favored seventh-ranked Marauders in the sectional opener, then winning a pair of hard-fought games over Pendleton Heights and Anderson to take the Richmond Sectional crown.

“Out of my three years (as head coach), this has been the first time that I thought we were really building at the end of the season,” coach Gizzi said. “The girls really started to feed off that energy and their confidence was growing as a group. … It was an inexperienced group that found their roles, stayed together and supportive of one another. They bought into the idea they could beat anyone if we play well and play together.”

Saturday’s game was the final one for three seniors, Reid, Michaela Jones and Josie Hackett.

“Mic and Jordan were phenomenal, especially in our big games and were always level-headed. All about the team,” the coach said. “Josie (Hackett) doesn’t play a lot, but she comes to practice, works hard and is a super person and great student. They are all awesome girls for our younger girls to look up to.”